Monday, 30 December 2013

Be Ttwixtmas

 
The "ever rolling stream" of time
 seems to flow with greater speed each year  
and crossing off the days to the new calendar seems to take no time at all.
 
Was it really a year ago I was marking appointments
 in a calendar not yet begun,
 just as I am now.
 
We will remember this Christmas as the one marked by
our new great grand daughter's birth on the 21st of December,
so the passing year has added to our little family.
 
Now we are moving out of one period of expectancy into another.
 
Little Alyssa has arrived;
we get to nurture her,
learn about her,
and from her...
 
In the few days between the festivities we get to count our many blessings,
perhaps think of those things we could have done better,
and letting them go,
 look towards what lies ahead.
So many bridges yet to cross...
 
 We can take strength from the knowledge we didn't make it this far by accident,
or on our own.
 
As Corrie Ten Boom said, 
"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future
 to a known God."
 
New Year Blessings

Tuesday, 24 December 2013


 

Wishing the Peace, Joy, and Love of Christmas to You and Yours
 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Looking for Still Waters

Abbey  Fields,  Kenilworth    
 
 
 When I started to write
 "Let There be Light"
 as my blog post,
 I did so partly to leave a record for  my family. 
 I wanted them to know something of my life
they might otherwise never really know.
  About what it was that had made me the person I am.
And, yes, I wanted them to know how much my story,
 even my being around for them,
had been dependent on God's intervention.
 
Just before I began to put the words together in any organised way,
 I was asked to speak about some of  my experiences of God,  at a small meeting.
 
 Usually when I speak it is to preach,
 and  although many people know I was wonderfully healed few know the details,
 so I was surprised to find myself at this meeting,
 sharing more than I had ever done before. 
   I was surprised at the impact made by what I told of God's light pouring into my life.
 
The response came because I had been ready to make myself vulnerable in a new way.
 
 It made me wonder what writing things down would truly entail. 
 
As I began to write, it seemed at first to flow easily enough.
  I thought I would be able to do it much as I do my painting,
 and fit it in and around the other priorities of my life, posting as I wrote. 
 
It hasn't turned out like that.
  I can see now I was foolish to think it would.
 
 As things come flooding back I find it really is
 time to speak about the inner journey with God,
 and not simply the physical manifestation of healing.  
 
   This is not a thing I find easy to do.
 
   There is an intimacy in God's dealings with each one of us
which requires wisdom and delicacy to reveal
.  It needs stillness and  waiting on God
 to find words to approximate the truth.
 Rather than squeezing moments here and there, as I have tried to do,
 I now know I must set aside a specific time to listen, remember,
 and write honestly and without flowery language or super spirituality.
 
I don't know yet how I can or will do that. 
 I simply know that I must try.
 
Lower Ladyes Hill, Kenilworth 
 
 With the Christmas season ahead life is due to get busy for us all.
 
I have sermons to prepare, worship practices to fit in, shopping and homey things,
 and the small matter of a new great grand child, just moments up the road,
 due on Boxing Day,
 while there is a much loved big brother- in -waiting to be thoroughly played  with
 and enjoyed as we wait.
 
I know you have much to do too.
 
Though there may well be a post or two before that,
but after the holidays I will be looking for a space to reflect and take up 
 "Let There be Light"
 again.
 
I hope you will join me then.
 
Blessings

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Send Out Your Light - Part 3




Continuing my testimony of transformation, hope and healing from earlier posts.



The Inner Voice,
 

Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.
                                                                                                   ~Rabindranath Tagore
Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief
                                                  -Mark 9:24


Faith and unbelief may seem strange bedfellows but
 faith is an exercise in trust. 

 My nature, 
 and my upbringing
 lead me to be anything but trustful of what cannot be proved.

Naturally analytical and cynical,
I  have been mistrustful of a lot of things.
Above all I have been mistrustful of myself.

I am telling you this so you will better understand
 some of the conflicts arising for me
as the next part of my story unfolded.

*
Like a lot of folks my only experience of hospital consisted of
 short stays on surgical wards.
Once for a tonsillectomy, and once for a sinus operation.

The ward I now lay in was a medical ward.
As such it could not have been more different from my former experience.
This was a ward where there was no quick fix surgical solutions.

 Old ladies in their various stages of dementia took up the lion's share of beds.
For the most part they had no where else to go
 until social services could secure a place of safety for them. 

There was a constant dribble of diabetics, epileptics, arthritics,
 and others with chronic medical or neurological conditions.
These would be on the ward just long enough for their immediate crisis to be handled
before they were sent home on a new regime of medication.
The shortest stays were the attempted suicides.

My own treatment consisted of enforced full bed rest.
 This meant lying flat at all times.
Sitting up was strictly forbidden
 which made meal times and bed pan rounds especially interesting.
(Do not linger on this thought gentle reader!)

In the beginning I sweat and steamed
 in a thick, prickly, cocoon of woollen blankets next to my skin.

I was put on a bland diet.
 Lacking all seasoning, nothing could be added
 to enhance the delights of hospital food.
  What food I was served was usually boiled or steamed.
Simply think of a colourless, tasteless, and flabby something on a plate
and you have it about right.

This however was the least of my worries. 

Lying flat as I was ,
 and with few of my fellow patients being well enough to visit my bedside
 I rarely saw their faces, or got to know them in the conventional sense.
However, I was familiar with their names and most intimate histories,
 by dint of the spectacular lack of privacy provided
 by being on a public ward.

As my fever began to subside,
 from all around me
 I heard a constant and inescapable litany of stories of pain and hopelessness
 that seemed to seep into the very fabric of the ward,
and eventually into the fabric of my own being. 
*
My medical regime consisted of large doses of soluble aspirin,
 intra muscular injections of antibiotics a couple of times a week,
and steroids.

Having a low tolerance to aspirin meant I had a constant ringing in my ears.
After a couple of weeks this would render me almost deaf.
 At that point I would develop a chronic headache and become violently sick.
The aspirin would be suspended for a few days to allow me to recover,
 then recommenced,
 and the whole thing would start all over again.

To complete the picture,
 the steroids bloated me to the typical moon face of the text books,
 and the injections left me bruised and sore.

Dreary as this sounds
the worst thing was that despite it all,
 the months passed with my pain continuing unabated,
 and the blood tests showing no sign of improvement.

Nobody could tell me how long I would remain in bed or when an improvement would occur.

On the surface I tried to keep up a pretence of being full of optimism.
whilst in myself
 and all around me,
 there seemed nothing but bleakness.


In truth of course there was light in this bleakness.

I could not see it because I had been robbed of all sense of perspective
by my exclusion from the full spectrum of life.
Almost everything that could bring light relief
remained outside the life of the ward
whilst I remained shut within it.

In the beginning my friends came to visit,
but they were lively teen aged girls whose lives were
expanding into new experiences.
They were buzzing with news of the latest dance, new boyfriends, and new clothes.

It quickly became apparent
 that some of my strange bed fellows spooked them.
They felt uneasy in the ward,
 and awkward trying to make conversation with me,
 as what they had to say
emphasised the difference between where they were
and where I was.
Inevitably their visits fell away.
 Our mutual terms of reference had simply ceased to exist.

As would be expected my closest friend persevered longest.
She had always had an ambition to be a nurse,
fired in no small measure by memories of her grandmother,
 who had been a district nurse.

A problem to this ambition presented itself in as much as
every time she sat at my bedside she would subside into tears
which nothing could staunch
'til she became so upset she would have to leave.
She just couldn't take the hospital atmosphere or being around sick people! 
I have to admit that did make me smile,
even if a little ruefully.

My parents continued to faithfully visit,
and even though I didn't in any way take them for granted
I know at the time I didn't full appreciate
how distressed they were at my illness.

They were not of the touchy feely generation.
 Their characters were formed in a harder, more pragmatic school,
which meant my mother's caresses came
 in the soft, newly laundered nightdresses she brought on every visit,
were tucked inside the neatly folded towels which smelt of home,
or in the paper thin triangles of sandwich
she concocted to tempt my appetite.

Dad's care came via an often wordless presence,
bracketed, like Mam's,
 with a brief awkward kiss at either end of the visit.

Did they ever know the comfort and strength
the steady flame of their love gave me I wonder?

*
I don't know at what point
 in the succession of days and nights
I became aware that isolated as I felt,
I was not alone in my darkness.

I could not then, nor now,
 explain the sense
 of a companion of great understanding and tenderness,
sharing my every moment.

I found within myself a meeting place with this companion;
a place of respite from the anguish of the ward, and my own fears.

Being me, I could not simply accept this gift
 but reasoned that,
 knowing the trouble I was in,
 I was summoning a rescuer from within my own psyche.

Never the less I recognised my need
 and embraced the place of safety
 I believed I was offering myself.

Since I had been a child I had always prayed.
 Now I was prepared to talk to this nameless companion about my concerns for myself,
 and my fellow patients.
I was not prepared that my companion should talk back.

I found myself being given
assurance in the middle of my anguished surroundings.
Most strangely I occasionally found myself with prior knowledge of
what was to come.

Can you understand how I could both rely on the comfort this inner voice gave,
 and at the same time
 fear it's source was proof that I was,
 not to put too fine a point on it,
simply going nuts!


Long months into my stay in hospital I was moved to it's annexe.

Away from the main hospital,
 it housed the children's hospital,
 and two wards where female adult patients not yet quite fully well,
 could spend few days or week or so,
before going home.

My move was no sign I was on my way home,
merely that I had been filling a much needed bed in the main hospital.
All the same, for me at was like moving from night to day.

My bed lay alongside a large bay window in a light and airy room on the ground floor.
For the first time since entering hospital I was allowed to sit up.

 After all those months of seeing mainly the ceiling above my bed and the screens around it,
I could look out on the sweeping driveway, on lawns, and trees.
I could see the sky,
 and the progress of the sun.

To top it all off I found my restricted diet was lifted too.

I thought my luck was really in when the first meal served me in my new abode was
 a much longed for fish and chips!
It was the last thing I expected when I found 
 my long term light diet must have shrunk my stomach.

To my disappointment
 I could only manage to eat a couple of forks full of that delicious meal.

*
My new companions were mostly surgical patients who,
in those days were still kept in hospital
 for the final dressing and healing of post operative wounds.

 In good general health,
they were lively company
who stood in stark contrast to my former sad ward mates. 

Even though I was still following the same medical regime,
even though the level of pain was un-changed,
 though I still had no idea how long I was to be bed bound,
by comparison to what had gone before
 I felt this was almost a return to normal life.

Regardless of this bright new atmosphere
and release from stress,
thankfully my inner companion did not leave me.

To be continued 

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Send Out Your Light - Part 2




Continuing my testimony of transformation, hope and healing from earlier post.



“You must have shadow and light source both,
 Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.”
                                                                     Rumi
 










 Before I can begin my story proper I should fill in some of my back story
 and let you in to at least some of the darkness.

I promise not to linger here any longer than necessary;
just enough to set the scene in preparation for the extraordinary,
 demonstrably powerful,
light of healing.
 
The part of the story that matters here began when I was around five years old
 and developed a tell tale butterfly shaped rash on my face,
 which with other symptoms, signified
 lupus erythematosus
 
I only retain three vivid memories of this time.
 
 Above all else I remember the intense burning of the skin on my face,
 then there is the picture of a bevy of white coated men standing in a semi circle around me
 talking about me as I sit perched on something that feels a long way off the ground
 in the middle of a shiny sort of room.
 
The third memory is to do with Miss Protheroe.
 
 She was our fearsome infants' school head mistress
 and I can see her now on the day she bore down on me as I played in the sunny school yard.
 Her mighty bosom billowed over my head as she caught me by the hand
 and wordlessly stumped me along to her office.
 
 I wondered what I was in for.
 
The shady room was a cool caress to the red hot patches on my face,
 even as I quaked with anticipation of what was to come. 
 To my surprise she sat me down and produced a large fluffy powder puff
covered in some white dust she explained was boric acid powder
 to soothe my "poor face".
Far from being soothing, the boric acid powder
seemed to increase the scorching irritation of my skin;
    my fear of Miss Prothereoe it forever eased.

Thinking of it now I realise there is a fourth memory.

Forming a background to everything else was my mother's distress.
I don't know what she had been told back then,
 but time was to tell that lupus pointed to a faulty immune system
 which could not be mended.

I have no memory of my recovery or the disappearance of the rash,
I do know how the subsequent years were marked with frequent illness.

My mother used to joke that
if somebody with something wrong only passed the end of the road
I would catch whatever they had.

For  me it as no joke to miss week after week of school,
returning to find the intensive grammar school programme had moved on so fast
I was forever scrabbling to catch up.

As hard as that was,
harder still was the constant sense of isolation when
on each return
hard won friendships were
lost to newly formed cliques.

The desperate exhaustion, and painful joints
 which had become part of my life
 flared into something more serious
when I was sixteen.

I was diagnosed with sub acute bacterial endocarditis,(SBE),
whisked into hospital, and began what I did not then know was to be
 two bed bound years.
 
These days an intensive course of  medication would probably
 be deemed enough to combat the infection,
 but back then as well as the antibiotics, analgesics, and steroids,
 complete bed rest was believed to be necessary to alleviate heart damage.
 
I think most patients on a public ward would agree 
 above and beyond our own symptoms and fears for ourselves,
 being surrounded by the sickness of others
 is the most scary and depressing thing of all.
  It certainly was for me.

At first I was in the feverish stage of SBE,
  too sick to know or care about where I was
 or who my fellow patients were.
 
Despite the large doses of analgesics the intense pain in my joints was ever present,
 and through my haze of fever and medication
 I could hear a constant metallic syncopation going on in the back ground.
 Then it dawned on me
 my heart was racing so hard
 it's rhythm was carrying through the rigid hospital mattress to the metal bed frame,
 setting up a constant clacking. 
 I had my own personal castanets!

To be continued

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Send out Your Light - Part 1


Acrylic on Canvas

It seems that everywhere I go the conversation turns to how bad things are.
The sense I get is that people generally feel let down by the powers that be,
and the old certainties that have failed us.

Around us are the catastrophes and instability of the world at large,
and in our own backyard,
our own lives,
 we experience need we at a loss to know how to deal with.

In spite of this evidence that the world is a dark place,
 down all the centuries there have been voices assuring us 
that behind it all the force of creation, 
of life itself,
 is one of light,
 and of love.

In all honesty we have to say from what we see around us,
 this doesn't make sense.

In the deepest part of my heart though,
 like most of us I guess,
I always peered into the darkness and suffering I saw,
with the yearning that somehow there would be the light of healing, love, or freedom.
 
The question always remained,
"How could love let this darkness be?
 
All too often my own answer has been 
"If there is light and love behind all this I can't see it"
 more than that,
"If it is there and allows this,
I don't want to know!"

Yet, here I am,
despite myself and my own cynical and doubting nature, 
joining my voice with those who speak of
 the abiding presence of light and of love,
simply because I have seen and experienced it.

 I admit to being apprehensive as to how much to say,
 or what is appropriate to tell because it will mean going back into dark places which,
though healed,
are not places I like to re-visit.

What I do know is that I need to tell it like it is, 
(perhaps in fits and starts,
 or in a torrent,)
however I can),
 so I can give others the chance to hear about
 the light that came into my darkness.
and therefore can come into anyone's.

You need to know before I begin my story that I will call the light "God",
but you do not need to subscribe to that name if it doesn't sit well with you.
I have become convinced
the light is there for you under any name or none. 

Blessings



Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Dark of the Year

Here we are
 with the dark evenings
suddenly having taken that leap forward they always do
when we put our clocks back an hour.
 
The curtains are closed early.
 
Some of us embrace the darkness
 at Halloween;
disguising ourselves,
 in an ancient attempt to fool the dark forces,
and pass unrecognised and unharmed
 through it's ranks.  

 
I write this on Guy Fawkes Night and the bonfires are blazing
 and the fireworks cracking the night open
 as we take another tack,
arming ourselves,
 defiant against the dark
by gathering to warmth and light of our own making.
 
 
I was reared in the blackout nights of the second world war,
when we scurried between our neighbours houses and our own
on the unlit Welsh hills.
Family ghost stories engrained in us,
 lending panic.
 
It seemed to my child's mind that God must be other than this fear and darkness.
 
Somehow or other grace led me to long for the Light I knew must God,
and to be filled with this Light.
 
In my childish way I pictured a lantern,
 and asked to have "clean glass" 
for His light. 
 
Amalfi lanterns
 
Many years later I found the words which confirmed His nature and His promise.
"I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life."
John 8:12
 
And, incredibly, his promise to us of our share in His light and life.
"You are the light of the world.
A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl,
instead they put it on a stand,
and it gives light to everyone in the house.
In the same way let your light shine before men,
that they may see your good deeds
and praise your father in heaven."
Matt 5:14-16
 
The offer is complete. 
 We so imperfect, and ordinary in ourselves can be part of the light in a dark world.
 
Knowing myself as I do
It seems impossible
 but we are not meant to measure ourselves by our own yardstick,
but by a light of love beyond measure.
 
It is for us simply to give ourselves to the Light and Life of God
as much as we, by grace, are able.
 
I love these words of Tagore, and have often prayed them.
 
Let only that little be left of me whereby I may name thee my all.
-----Let only that little be left of my will whereby I may feel thee on every side,
and come to thee in everything, and offer to thee my love every moment.
-----Let only that little be left of me whereby I may never hide thee.

-----Let only that little of my fetters be left whereby I am bound with thy will,
and thy purpose is carried out in my life - and that is the fetter of thy love.
 Gitanjali  Song 34
 
I cannot think of a better way to face the dark of the year,
or the dark of life
can you?
 
Blessings
 
 
 
 

Friday, 18 October 2013

Visiting The Public, West Bromwich

Today I went to view a friend's M A ceramics exhibition being held in an
 exciting open gallery/ entertainment/ meeting place in West Bromwich.
This wonderful place is called The Public
Sadly it is closing in November to become a college,
 but even more sadly the interior is to be completely gutted
and all the lovely design destroyed.
To find out the history of The Public you can go to
Here is how it looked today in all it's glorious pinkness.
I lost track of the number of floors when I got inside.
Was it three or four floors I climbed through from the reception area?
The thing is, you can take the lift,
but the way to appreciate the building and the art work fully is by
climbing the winding ramps and suspended walk ways.

 With the reflective surfaces, changing light patterns, sounds effects, and open drops, 
this was not wonderful for my vertigo but
 rich in stimulation of the senses.
(I know it's very tame compared with Frank Gehry interiors
 which I've visited and found more challenging).

 The labels attached to this ramp are tied by local people who were invited
 to catalogue their appreciation of the building
 and what has happened in it since it opened.

 There were lovely interactive art installations on the ramps,
 though this great photo of mine shows none of them.
 I made electronic music,
 watched videos,
 shared laughter,
sent an animated bird-like creation flying around the ramps
 by dancing on an electronic pad,
and much more.

  

Here I am becoming part of the art work.
Fortuitously I was wearing toning pink which fit in with the d├ęcor!

Back on the ground floor
 and gravitating to a welcome little tooth full of something in the restaurant
 there were more yellow labels on the chairs.
 
The one at my table said
"It's good that people can come here,
have a snack,
 and meet other people".

I think that says it all really.

The Public
 has provided a magnificent space for the people of West Bromwich.
A focus, and a platform for them,
 and for folk from further afield.


 Where will the knitting group meet
 when this community space is closed I wonder?


The decision to lease the building to a local college
 has been taken by the local government authority
who created a trust to run The Public.

Despite the increasing volume of visitors
 no doubt the cost of running it has prompted the decision.

I wonder if it has taken a while for local people
 to begin to realise the full potential
 of this courageous venture?

  Now it is buzzing,
 and appreciation for it growing,
 alas, too late.

Money aside, are we too conservative,
 too timid,
or too quick to look for possible negatives,
 to take up new experiences,
allow them to mature,
and make the most of them
I wonder?

 Blessings






Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Just walking.... P.S.


The sense of tears turning to joy
 is written in
 the dying of the year at autumn
which holds in it's heart
 the seed for the rising of the new life of spring.

 The whole resurrection story is here
 written in creation for us to read.
 
And if for the grass of the field how much more so for us!

Today the rain,
 tomorrow the sunshine.
 
Today the letting go and the dying,
tomorrow the receiving of the new, and re-birth.
 
Truly
 "To every season there is a time..."

Listen to Judy Collins and Pete Seeger sing his timeless classic,
"Turn, Turn, Turn".

(It's got a bit of a cheesy intro but that only takes a moment!)


 
Be Blessed
 

Monday, 14 October 2013

Just Walking in the Rain

This Sunday my walk around the village and it's by- ways
 could not have been more different from last week.
 
The golden autumn has given way to rain soaked grey,
 but don't you think the sodden colours of the greenery is wonderful?

 

 
 
 Truth to tell the weather reflected my own mood.
 
You might know the feeling
when it's as if the rain drops are tears
 you are trying not to shed.
 
We live in a world where the pressure to be
"HAPPY"
all the time is pretty constant,
yet how many of us actually arrive at this state of bliss?
 
Sometimes we walk in the rain and not the sun,
and I think that's alright,
don't you?
 
Of course I'm not talking about a state of depression
 which is an illness asking to be taken seriously. 
I am thinking of
 those odd times when melancholy calls us
 to a place of reflection,
perhaps of rest and withdrawing for a while
 to re-evaluate.
 
 
 Losses or hurts of all sorts, great or small, accrue in our lives,
 which we need to come to terms with
before we can set our sights
 on a clearer path ahead.
 
It's good when there is
 a friend ready to walk this bit of rainy path with us,
truly listening,
and helping us find
 that bit of light and healing
 we need to speed our way.
 
I have been privileged in my counselling days
 to accompany many on parts of their journey,
even as I have been helped many times myself.
 
Times of sadness
 rightly used
 can be the spring board to seeing
the brighter colours and clearer light
waiting to enter our lives.
 
Be Blessed
  

Monday, 30 September 2013

A Sunday walk

Today was golden with a June-like warmth, and sweet, mellow, autumn sunlight.  
A perfect day to go for my first real walk for months.
 
You can come with me, courtesy of my phone camera.
 
  As ever I start from my beloved park,
 where the trees at the edge of the golf course are beginning to turn their
 various shades of autumn auburn.
 
 On, over the footbridge and into the village , this handsome Georgian house sits on the corner,
 next to some older, but up-dated houses.
 The hand rail on the right runs alongside the footpath to the church,
but I walked up Church Road which lies alongside the house. 

 
Two horse riders,
 (of which there are many in the lanes and roads in and around the village today),
amble companionably along. 
The sound of  hooves breaking the afternoon silence of the lane
 lent a timelessness to the moment. 
 


  The field which is usually full of horses is empty.
The usual tenants must be part of the increase in equine traffic today.


  The village allotments,
(plots of land which are rented by the year to grow vegetables, fruit and flowers),
are being given their pre-winter tidy up.
Fruit and veg is harvested amid the blaze of dahlias,
 chrysanthemums,
 and Michaelmas daisies
 

 Back in the main village,
 the old houses straddle the street in front of the church.

 These cottages date from the 1680s. 
In those days this road, (still called the Birmingham Road),
 was the main road between Coventry and Birmingham,
 and was probably much busier then than it is on this sleepy Sunday,
 when the main artery is the A45 which by-passes the village.

 These cottages on the opposite side of the road were built approximately a century later,
around 1760.


The Old Stone House dates from 1600,
 and I have heard stories that it is haunted by the ghost of a roundhead soldier,
 but as Emily Bronte says in Wuthering Heights,
 it is hard to believe in unquiet spirits on a day such as this.
 
 
Back over the footbridge which links the village with the park.


 






The beech trees are still freckled by the buttery sun,

and as the afternoon shadows lengthen and tea time calls,
 families linger to enjoy the last rays before the autumn dews begin to fall.
 
My own street is much more mundane than the historic village centre but,
 despite my love for my native Wales,
 I still feel greatly blessed to live in this lovely part of England.
 
May your own place on this beautiful planet
Be Blessed
Today